The Four Best AR Pistol Braces

pistol braces lead honey badgers

Best is a strong word — often subjective — and you may notice some decent pistol stabilizing braces missing from this article. So, instead, let’s just call this Jeremy’s shortlist of my favorite pistol braces, whether that’s for an AR pistol or for other large-format pistols. In no particular order . . .

SB Tactical SBA3: SB Tactical is the inventor of the original pistol stabilizing brace (arm brace), and the SBA3 is its latest iteration. Check out TTAG’s full review here.

Suffice it to say that this adjustable brace, which fits any standard mil-spec AR-15 carbine receiver extension (buffer tube), is among the most useful on the market. It provides a fantastic cheek rest (for those who use a brace in that manner), a QD socket on both sides, quick adjustment, and solid ergonomics overall. All in a lightweight package. And, of course, it looks flawlessly at-home on an AR-15 pistol.

For those wishing they could instantly extend their SBA3 from fully collapsed to the extended position of their choice by simply ripping the brace rearwards  — no squeezing of a lever necessary — check out CMMG’s new RipBrace. Both a short PDW version and a standard version are available.

Gear Head Works Tailhook MOD 1: If simple, minimalist, lightweight, and aluminum (rather than polymer/rubber) are boxes on your checklist, the Gear Head Works Tailhook MOD 1 tops the list. Read TTAG’s full review here.

With a QD socket on both sides and its extremely simple install and operation, the Tailhook MOD 1 balances weight, durability, convenience, and utility like few others. Due to its sleek and small design, it typically looks better than the competition when installed on a smaller pistol or PDW such as a B&T TP9 or an HK MP5, etc.

If small and aluminum top your requirements, also give a look to the DoubleStar Strongarm.

SB Tactical FS1913: SB Tactical’s new FS1913 will begin shipping this month. TTAG already has its hands on one, but the full review isn’t yet ready.

This is the brace for pistols equipped with an M1913 Picatinny rail on the rear of the receiver, such as the SIG Rattler seen above. The brace portion is fairly small and light, and is molded directly onto an aluminum skeleton left-side-folding strut. I think it’s the best thing going for Pic rail-equipped pistols.

That said, some folks will prefer a collapsible brace to this folding brace. SB Tactical has an app for that, too, in their MPX PSB.

Strike Industries AR Pistol Stabilizer: at an MSRP of $39.95, Strike’s AR Pistol Stabilizer provides simple utility at a low cost.

This is probably where most of y’all expected to see a KAK Shockwave Blade, but it just doesn’t butter my biscuit. Thanks to Strike Industries’ AR Pistol Stabilizer’s compatibility with any standard pistol buffer tube and its ambi QD sockets in addition to a sling strap slot, it gets my nod among the blade style braces.

Honorable Mention: PDW brace systems like the SB Tactical SBPDW, Strike Industries Viper PDW Stabilizer, Maxim Defense CQP Pistol PDW Brace, and others aren’t my cup of tea. They’re extremely expensive, heavy, and typically offer very poor and awkward cheek rests. Though it looks like Strike’s Viper PDW Stabilizer does a good job on that last point. They do all look pretty darn cool, though.

Technical Note: while an SBR — a short barreled rifle — is regulated by the NFA, enforced by the ATF, and is a special class of firearm requiring registration, payment of a $200 tax, and other restrictions (e.g. on crossing state lines), a pistol with a stabilizing brace remains just a normal pistol like any other. This is because a pistol brace is not a shoulder stock. Whether you’re adding a brace to your pistol build for assistance in stabilizing the firearm, for aesthetic reasons, or to incidentally shoulder (which is currently allowed under ATF’s interpretation), a pistol brace / arm brace / pistol stabilizing brace is a fantastic addition to a large-format pistol with significantly less red tape and restriction vs. registering and owning an SBR.

comments

  1. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

    greatest listicle ever. literally.

  2. avatar Squiggy81 says:

    SBA3 rocks. Haven’t even shot the one I have and already bought another one. After mounting it, I wouldn’t even think about about buying anything else currently on the market. You can say no particular order, but we all know the best one is at the top…

  3. avatar Buff cousin Elroy says:

    I went from the SB PDW brace to the SBA3 and can say the SBA3 is superior in every way. Cheekweld, weight, cost, and strength are all better on the SBA3.

    But… that’s just like, my opinion, man.

    1. avatar Jon in CO says:

      The A3 is almost half the price, so for form and function, that A3 is far superior to the PDW. I’ve been waiting for the Strike PDW brace since SHOT 2018. $275 for a stock and buffer is a bit steep, but I’m a bit of a cheap ass.

  4. avatar arc says:

    Correction on the last part… “which is currently allowed under ATF’s interpretation” should read “Which is currently allowed under the COTUS.” The ATF doesn’t have the authority to decide who is “allowed” what.

    1. avatar Smith3241 says:

      Try telling that to the agent putting the cuffs on.

      1. avatar Arc says:

        You sure are assuming a lot in your hypothetical situation. Not everyone is a push over.

  5. avatar cg123m says:

    I have to disagree with the dismissive mention for the PDW braces, at least as far as it relates to the Maxim PDW Pistol Brace. I own one, and it provides a fantastic cheek weld, the collapsible brace range is superb, and if you find yourself shouldering it you will be pleasantly surprised. It does look awesome as mentioned. I have to agree it is a bit pricey, but I was able to build an entire AR pistol by shopping deals for under 800$ including a 400$ brace. And I could have done it cheaper if i had purchased a stripped lower and parts instead of being lazy and buying a complete lower with the brace.

    Cost is definitely a detractor, but it has a fantastic cheek weld at full extension, and it is widely regarded as the best pistol brace on the market, with the only detraction being cost. To dismiss it at the bottom is a little petty, though at least the author admits he just doesn’t prefer it. Since it is based on the SB3 brace, it literally has all the same features of the SB3 except it collapses much smaller (due to the proprietary buffer tube/spring) which is helpful if you want a great truck gun without going the side folder route.

    1. avatar arc says:

      Would rather pay $400 to a pro-gun company making pistol braces, than $200 to uncle sam for his “mother may I” permission slip.

      1. avatar Kenneth says:

        Not to mention that an NFA registered SBR cannot be legally taken across a State line without prior written permission from the BATF. Three guesses how easy it is to get that permission. And the first two don’t count.
        Unless you have a friend at the ATF, count on never being able to travel with an SBR.

        1. avatar jwtaylor says:

          That has not been my experience at all. I’ve gotten quick responses and never denied. I submit form 20s each year for that year, and for the times that I needed it sooner, I’ve never had a problem getting an expedited review.

        2. avatar Jon in CO says:

          This is the biggest reason I think the Pistol/brace combo is superior. Less regulation and notification all the way around. Pistol and can, good to go almost anywhere.

        3. avatar Jeremy S. says:

          Yeah that part about the letters isn’t accurate. It’s a simple form and it’s rubber stamped. You can also email it and request (and receive) expedited service. Standard turnaround is 3 to 6 weeks.

          And, as JWT stated, you can file a single Form 20 that’s good for up to 364 days. For instance, when I used to go back and forth between WA and ID every weekend, I’d file one form per year that gave me permission to go back and forth as often as I wanted within that year period.

        4. avatar Arc says:

          Yep, braces = no paperwork. Can even put a butt pad on your flack to hold the brace in place. Just make sure nothing is attached to the rifle and there for “modifying it”

        5. avatar Nigel the expat says:

          Very quick and easy in my experience.

          Still don’t like it at all, but quick nonetheless.

          I keep one in place to go back and forth from AZ and NV for mine.

    2. avatar -Peter says:

      +1 for the Maxim PDW brace. I owned one, and then upgrade to their PDW stock once my paperwork and stamp from the ATF came through. Very high-quality gear.

      Bonus: switching from the brace to the stock involved switching out just one piece, which Maxim sells separately.

  6. avatar -Peter says:

    Can we just stop it with all the “if you should choose to shoulder it sometimes” or “incidental/occasional shoulder contact” talk?

    Braces and stabilizers are for shouldering, FULL STOP.

    I wish as a community of law-abiding gun owners we could stop being coy and just come out in the open and say that we use a particular device for it’s well-known and commonly-accepted purpose.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      Except they make fairly crappy stocks. The best brace is still worse then the lower-end stocks on the market. On the other hand, my friends who are burn victims, with limited mobility of their hands, or my friends that are amputees, absolutely love using the brace as intended.

      1. avatar binder says:

        I have yet to see a single video or picture. But please explain to me how anyone with any kind physical disability is served by a trying to hold a 4 lb minimum firearm out at arms length? Or perhaps I am just missing something.

      2. avatar binder says:

        Well, guess what, I managed to find a image of “the gentleman for whom the original SB-15 was designed.” Wow that is awkward looking. Talk about cramming a square peg in a round hole. Any bets on how much better a standard stock would work for him. I personally think a Tavor, with the weight in the back, would work so much better for this individual.

        https://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/2015/01/foghorn/ttag-exclusive-sb-tacticals-statement-atf-pistol-brace-ruling/

        1. avatar joshua says:

          Considering he already had an AR pistol, probably because he didn’t want to deal with an SBR, I’d say it worked out great for him.

        2. avatar binder says:

          OK, wink wink, yes it works sooooooo well

    2. avatar Jon in CO says:

      Sure, admit that we’re all just trying to get around federal law and depending on who and how you ask, you’re violating federal law. That’s not what is happening. They are designed for one handed use as they are explained. If people choose to do different things, then they can. A pair of pliers can be used as a hammer, but if you buy pliers, they’re designed as pliers. Are they as good as hammers? No, but they can be used in a pinch if needed.

      I understand your sentiment, but your comment is not a solution. Fixing stupidity and changing SBR laws is the correct course.

    3. avatar Jeremy S. says:

      The ATF has made it exceedingly clear that they are choosing to interpret and enforce the law with a primary focus on the user’s intent. If it’s your intent to buy or use a brace in order to circumvent NFA law, you have violated NFA law. These items are NOT stocks or functional replacements for stocks. Period. Full stop.

      1. avatar DV says:

        Well the atf can go suck a nut. If you’re reading this and the ATF signs your checks, you’re part of the problem.

        Regulating what free individuals do with their private property? Tax dollars could be better spent elsewhere….

  7. avatar tfunk says:

    Wait, the SB Tactical A3 brace fits on a standard carbine buffer tube? I thought one of the “absolutely do NOT do this” things for an AR pistol was if you put a carbine tube on it then it becomes a rifle and hence an SBR?

    1. avatar Geoff says:

      This is what I understood also. If it is a standard carbine tube then a rifle stock can be put on and instant SBR, even if you use a brace. A pistol tube was designed larger in diameter so this could not happen. With a carbine tube you now have a case of “constructive intent” to build a SBR if the barrel is less than 16″.

      1. avatar Jeremy S. says:

        Constructive intent may apply if you had a stock that was compatible with this extension but no rifle to put it on or if you had a carbine extension on a pistol but the brace wasn’t on it and you had a stock handy. As-is, in this configuration, it’s approved as a pistol brace.

        1. avatar joshua says:

          You can have a rifle buffer tube on your pistol as long as you don’t have a loose stock laying around it’s hard to prove intent. The only difference between a pistol and a rifle is simply a stock and barrel length. I can build an AR with a 15.9″ barrel and as long as I don’t actually put a stock on the buffer tube it’s still a pistol. Although technically it’s a “firearm” at that point if wanted to call it that and slap on a vfg. Simply adding a rifle tube doesn’t make it an SBR since there’s no stock on it, just make sure if you have a loose stock laying around you can prove it’s for a rifle and not that pistol.

        2. avatar Geoff says:

          So tell me how many people do you think have ONLY an AR pistol and no AR rifles?
          Which means if they have a an AR rifle they have a stock that can be accidentally or deliberately swapped.
          I have 5 AR rifles and 1 AR pistol. But the pistol has the oversize buffer tube so I can’t be accidentally swapping stocks and make it an SBR. And I have a few M4 stocks laying around as I always replace them with a MagPul MOE stock.

        3. avatar joshua says:

          Well since it’s not possible to accidentally put a stock on a pistol there’s your first problem. Also I’m going to assume there’s probably a couple thousand people that have just an AR pistol but I’m not omniscient so I have no way of actually knowing. As far as you having multiple stocks laying around and using an over sized pistol tube…congratulations? The law literally states you need to have intent to build an SBR before you can be charged. If you buy a brace that uses a regular buffer tube so it can be adjusted and it’s on your pistol and assembled correctly, then you clearly are not showing intent regardless of whether or not you have extra stocks laying around. It’s just something people say to do to make it that much harder for you to get into trouble. In all reality you can build an SBR without registering it and nobody would ever know unless you’re being stupid with it. Last I checked we don’t have daily door to door searches in this country yet so it’s not like it would be an issue anyways.

        4. avatar Jeremy S. says:

          It has always been the case that people own both rifles and pistols with swappable parts. What’s keeping you from “accidentally” putting your pistol upper on a rifle lower? Nothing. You still aren’t in violation of “constructive intent” in the same way you aren’t in violation for owning a rifle and a hacksaw. That doesn’t mean you’re planning on chopping the barrel into an illegal config. This buffer tube thing is really silly when swapping uppers is just as easy and, ultimately, swapping receiver extensions only takes a few minutes anyway. It isn’t like your pistol extension is welded to your pistol lower and your pistol upper is also welded to that lower. Why does this buffer tube thing stand out to you among the thousands of ways a person could potentially fall into some BS constructive intent trap?

  8. avatar Derfel Cadarn says:

    Delude yourselves all you like, but these are NOT pistols.

    1. avatar Jeremy S. says:

      Legally, yeah, they sure as heck are. You can have them loaded in your vehicle in states that don’t allow a loaded rifle, etc etc in every other way they’re a pistol under the law. To qualify as a rifle it must have been designed to fire from the shoulder with a shoulder stock.

      1. avatar arc says:

        Bingo!

        Legaleze, technicalities… most of what matters is whats on paper. Spirit of the law is a minor ingredient.

    2. avatar MLee says:

      I own one. It’s legally a pistol. I can carry it in my vehicle fully loaded. Would some cop get a stiff about it? Maybe, but in the end, I drive down the street and they are feeling all poopy because there wasn’t a damn thing they could do.

  9. avatar willford says:

    Gear Head Tail hook beats the other braces hands down for a Pistol. I have had Three, the HOOK is the best for me IMO.

  10. avatar Uncle Walt says:

    I’ve heard rumblings of a new Shockwave Blade 2M that uses a standard mil-spec carbine buffer tube, which was already approved by ATF. That way, I’m not locked into the proprietary KAK tube.

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